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Clean Diesel: 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Wagon

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This is one clean diesel. The 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Wagon seen here is on eBay and can be found in El Monte, California. This car is so clean it’s hard to believe that it’s 36 years old! It’s listed at one penny less than $5,000 as a Buy It Now price and there is no Make Offer tab, so it’s $4,999.99 or nothing.

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This car had the same owner for the first 36 years of its existence, until the current owner recently bought it. They mention that there is some “small damage on the right rear door. ( small paint job)” which can be seen here. That can’t be rust so it must have been some sort of dent or ding that someone didn’t do a very good job of matching what may be one of the two easiest colors (tones) to match.

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Other than that one spot on the RR door, which surely can be repainted to match, this car looks fantastic. The Dasher was known as the Passat to most of the rest of the world’s markets, other than in North America. 1981 was the last year for this generation and it’s by far my personal favorite, I love how clean and tight the design is. Even the big bumpers are nicely-integrated and designed. Speaking of bumpers, these could stand to be touched up at the same time that the RR door is repainted.

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The Passat, or Dasher in North America, got a diesel engine from the VW Golf in 1979. It wasn’t a big, turbodiesel like you would expect to see on a modern Volkswagen, this one is a 1.5L inline-four with a whopping 49 hp and a 0-60 time of 19 seconds, 6 seconds slower than the gas-powered Dasher. Which, come to think of it, even at 13 seconds, calling this car a “Dasher” was a bit of a stretch. This car has traveled a measly 121,000 miles, it’s barely broken in yet!

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The interior of this car is almost like a museum piece. The 4-speed manual transmission will help to wring the most out of the 49 hp engine. The seats look perfect as does the headliner, door panels, and rear compartment. For (a penny) less than $5k a person could have a great commuter, a great road trip car with superb mpg, and they would also have a car that they could show at a “vintage” car show. I think that this car is a winner, are there any VW Dasher diesel wagon fans out there?


  1. Leon

    Is that diesel soot in or on the left tailight ? Looks dark and dull

    Like 1
  2. redwagon

    wow. if someone were really into dashers this would be a wet dream. it looks like it just dropped in from a time warped universe. i wonder if it’s difficult for the seller to part with it? glws.

    Like 1
  3. wagon master

    Had one. Slower than snot.

    Like 0
  4. Rob

    Had two, great cars, fragile cylinder heads. The first, actually belonging to my best friend, the “Diesel Demon Dasher from Hell” was a great car. Driveability was excellent, fuel economy was superb, and was able to travel more quickly than perhaps it should have; cracked the head on Vail pass making pretty good time. On the coast back down, we somehow ran over his girlfriend (ended up not being a bad thing, just fortuitous). The second was a project I never quite got done. I did love both cars, a great package. Now I’d probably drop in a TDI engine :)

    Like 1
  5. geomechs geomechs Member

    This is a good buy. Head problems, there were a few but most could be traced back to either low coolant or a defective radiator cap. The Bosch fuel injection system is very reliable and will probably outlast the engine. Do NOT EVER run it out of diesel fuel; the vane-type feed pump inside the drive end of the injection pump will run dry and self-destruct, along with the housing itself. You can also apply that rule of thumb to ’93 and older Dodge trucks with the Cummins engine; they also use a VE pump.

    Like 1
  6. Roger

    Had a diesel 82 Rabbit. Slower than do sheet but an easy 55 mpg and very reliable. All good times with that vehicle! Now a days I pay the 8 mpg gas bill happily but always gonna love that rabbit!!

    Like 1
  7. Joe Howell

    Really cool find. I worked part- time at a VW dealer in 1974 while a student when these were first introduced. Loaded one up with every Volkswagen of America supplied Autobahn (ZVW xxx xxx) numbered accessory made and the dealer installed A/C unit for owner of the dealership. The standard heater fan motor was removed and replaced with the one in the ZVW A/C kit. I still have several of the old standard heater motors kicking around in my garage if the new owner needs one :) All VW A/C was a dealer installed option back then. I thought my 83 Diesel Rabbit pickup was slow but it was a rocket compared to this.

    Like 1
  8. Jubjub

    Really great face on these. Always liked the meeting of the bumper/corner lamp wraparound and the chamfer of the hood. Seems everyone one of these Dashers that survive is a Diesel. I had an ’80 Rabbit Diesel. Decent little car, but would’ve been better with a gas engine. Could never get much more than 45mpg. Hated putt putting up hills, being passed by semis, then coasting past them on the downhills. I was a nuisance to say the least.

    Like 1
  9. Paul M

    My wife’s boss was selling his and he asked me if I’d like to drive it to work over the weekend. Since the car I was driving was a real gas guzzler, I decided to drive it, not expecting to like it. The round trip to work was about 60 miles. I couldn’t believe the mileage I got with that car! Plus the fact that it cruised so effortlessly on the interstate. The car sold itself. I drove it for about 6 years and the only problem I had was replacing the clutch. I put over 150K miles on it and it never left me stranded. That was one of the few cars that I sold that I regretted having done so. It was the first of many diesels that I owned.

    Like 1
  10. S. Demme

    Absolutely loved my ’80 Diesel Dasher – had the hatch-back, which was a pain with a baby, but drove it all over, from NY State to Florida, through a stinking Summer in Apopka, where, yup, one of the piston heads blew right through. BUT an out-of-work mechanic on a local orange grove welded it up, balanced all the pistons, and it just kept right on going, slowly. Had a complete electrical failure driving over Sterling Mountain, NY in an ice storm; lost wipers, defrost, lights, etc., BUT it just kept on going, slowly…if my ex-husband hadn’t trashed it, it would probably still be going…slowly! Awesome mileage!

    Like 1
  11. Scott Arthur Martin

    I have a 1980 dasher 2 door. 96,000 one owner miles. Inside is near new original. Dash has a crack. Exterior is totally awesome. Never sat outside overnight. No snow ever. Diesel fuel. Been babied like a total brat.

    Like 1
  12. jim

    My wife and I had an ’80 5 door hatch diesel. I killed the engine by throwing number one rod off the crank and into the block. Now, we have an ’80 dasher diesel wagen (purposely misspelled) with a zero mileage 1.6 liter diesel. It has a gasser exhaust manifold (with a ‘wye’ pipe for better exhaust flow and it has the gasser exhaust pipe). We have yet to drive it because it is at the shop still waiting for the diehard vw mechanic to complete the work.

    Like 1
  13. Paul

    I had one too 1980 brown with 50,000 . Got it from a dealer on Long Island. Loved that car. Used it throughout college then traded it for a quantum wagon. Mine had clutch problems too. Years later I now have 2011
    Jetta tdi wagon love that too!

    Like 0
  14. Jim

    My wife and I have two diesel dashers. Hers (a 1980) will end up looking nearly like a showroom example, while mine (1979) will be my daily driver. My wife calls mine ‘Mud Pud’ for mud puddle. I just bought it two days ago. It needs some help, but nothing too severe. It has an aftermarket turbo and a 1.6 liter. I’m getting it to be roadworthy and will be driving it to work on Monday.

    Like 0
    • Kyle

      Hey I’m refurbishing one what turbo did you put on there? And do you have tips?

      Like 0
  15. William Muse

    I had one you could walk faster than when it was in first gear.

    Like 0

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